Understanding Diabetes (Includes recipe for Dairy-Free Black Bean Hummus)

by Monique N. Gilbert, B.Sc. 
Natural Health Advocate, Recipe Developer, Freelance Writer and Author of Virtues of Soy: A Practical Health Guide and Cookbook

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) defines diabetes (medically called diabetes mellitus) as a complex disorder mainly caused by the failure of the pancreas to release enough insulin into the body. A defect in the parts of cells that accept the insulin may also lead to diabetes.

Normally, when the body breaks down complex carbohydrates it produces glucose. Cells need insulin to absorb glucose. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that converts sugar, starches and other foods into energy. Natural insulin may be present in diabetics. However, their cells may not recognize it, and thus cannot absorb glucose. This inability to produce enough insulin or utilize existing insulin in the body, results in high sugar levels in both the blood and urine.

Diabetes often runs in families. The most common symptoms are the need to urinate often, increased thirst, weight loss, and increased appetite. Diabetes may negatively affect the eyes, kidneys, nervous system, extremities, blood vessels and skin. Infections are common and hardening of the arteries often develops. Diabetic complications due to these effects include blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart attack, stroke and impotence.

According to the ADA, diabetes is a chronic and incurable disease. With its complications, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death (sixth leading cause of death by disease) in the United States. About 16 million Americans have diabetes mellitus. Particularly troubling is that more than a third of these individuals do not even know they have the disease.

The two most common categories of diabetes are Type 1, affecting 5-10 percent of Americans with diabetes, and Type 2, affecting 90-95 percent of American diabetics. Type 1 diabetes primarily targets children and young adults, and requires treatment with daily injections of insulin. Type 2 diabetes generally has an onset later in life, usually after the age of 40. This form of diabetes often develops in overweight adults who do not exercise regularly, and in people with low HDL or high triglycerides. Often people with Type 2 diabetes have no symptoms. Doctors often treat Type 2 diabetics with changes in diet and exercise, or a combination of these and oral medications.

Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics have an elevated risk for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, disorders of the nervous system, amputations of the extremities, blindness, impotence and kidney disease. According to the ADA, more than 75 percent of Americans with diabetes die of some form of heart or blood vessel disease. Diabetics are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or suffer a stroke. Up to 21 percent of all individuals with diabetes will develop kidney disease.

Diabetic kidney disease is the most common cause of kidney failure or end stage renal disease, a condition which requires dialysis or a kidney transplant in order to live. Impotence due to diabetic kidney disease or blood vessel blockages, afflicts approximately 13 percent of Type 1 diabetic males and 8 percent of Type 2 diabetic males. Medical reports indicate diabetic men over the age of 50, have impotence rates as high as 50-60 percent.

Modifications in diet are critical to help keep diabetes in control, and possibly prevent its onset. The ADA has revised its eating guidelines for diabetics over the past few years. The simpler food system focuses on eating smaller portions of food regularly throughout the day to keep the blood-sugar level steady. Smaller, more frequent meals will also allow for a wider variety of food intake. Food content should consist of 50-60 percent of total calories coming from complex carbohydrates, 10-20 percent from protein, and 20-30 percent of daily calories from fat. The ADA also recommends this dietary guideline for non-diabetics as a preventive measure and a way of promoting good overall health.

Looking for a delicious, nutritious high-fiber snack? Then try this wonderful dip recipe from my book
Virtues of Soy: A Practical Health Guide and Cookbook. It also makes an excellent sandwich spread!

Black Bean Hummus (Dairy-Free)

2 cups cooked black beans
2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
2-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic
1/3 cup soymilk
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)


Place beans, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic clove in a food processor. Blend for a full 1-2 minutes or until a paste is formed.

Add soymilk and salt. Blend until it's smooth and creamy.

Transfer to a container and refrigerate to chill. Serve as a dip with crackers, pita bread wedges or fresh cut up vegetables; or as a spread with pita bread or tortillas.

Makes 2-2/3 cups (4-6 servings)

This article and recipe are excerpts from
Monique N. Gilbert's book
Virtues of Soy: A Practical Health Guide and Cookbook
(Universal Publishers, 2001, pp. 37-38, 86)

Copyright © Monique N. Gilbert - All Rights Reserved.

Author Bio:

Monique N. Gilbert has a Bachelor of Science degree, is a Certified Personal Trainer/Fitness Counselor, Natural Health Advocate, Recipe Developer, Freelance Writer and Author. She began a whole grain, vegetable-rich diet as a child. This introduced her to a healthier way of eating and became the foundation of her dietary choices as an adult. She became a full-fledged vegetarian on Earth Day 1990. Over the years she has increased her knowledge and understanding about health and fitness, and the important role diet plays in a person's strength, vitality and longevity. Monique feels it is her mission to educate and enlighten everyone about the benefits of healthy eating and living. 

For more information, visit Monique's website at www.MoniqueNGilbert.com


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The articles in this blog are only intended to offer health information to help you understand the benefits of a healthy diet and lifestyle. It is not intended to diagnose, dispense medical advise or prescribe the use of diet as a form of treatment for illness without medical approval. In the event you use this information without a health practitioner's approval, you are prescribing for yourself, which is your right. However, the publisher and author assume no responsibility.